S/Court clerk risks subpoena
Defense lawyers representing indicted former Forestry Development Authority Managing Director, Moses Wogbeh, have told Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia that they will subpoena the clerk of the Supreme Court “if it will cause” them to get a mandate that allegedly ordered the FDA to ship logs out of the country despite a moratorium by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
“This document will come, if it will cause us to subpoena the clerk of the Supreme Court – we will do it Your Honor, lead defense lawyer Cllr. Yormie Quiqui Gbeisay, said during argument Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at the Criminal Court “C,” Temple of Justice.
The defense team made the declaration Tuesday in its argument against prosecution's inquiry, seeking to test defendant Wogbeh's credibility when they asked him to reconcile his previous testimony to claims that his administration had on August 14, 2012 allegedly ordered the logs shipment ahead of the Supreme Court's mandate dated September 4, 2012.
Testifying with his lawyers last week, the former FDA Managing Director claimed that his administration authorized the shipment of logs at the Port of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County and its surrounding based on Chambers Justice Kabineh M. Ja'neh's mandate to return to status quo.
Defendant Wogbeh and four others were indicted for allegedly issuing up to 61 illegal Private Use Permits or PUPs between April 2010 and December 2011 that allegedly authorized commercial logging operations on nearly 2.5 million hectares of land area, which caused government to loss over US$6 million in revenue.
They face charges of criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage, forgery or counterfeiting, obtaining and issuing deceptive writings, and obstruction of government functions.
The prosecution drew its question from a date of the issuance of mandate of Chamber Justice Ja'neh on September 4, 2012, while the alleged email from co-defendant Jangar Kamara of FDA to SGS for shipment of logs from the Port of Buchanan is allegedly dated Tuesday, August 14, 2012.
Following defense's objection to prosecution's question, Presiding Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter Gbenewelleh ruled that the court agreed that “prosecution can cross-examine the witnesses or the defendants on the … mandate during the trial provided the prosecution has said mandate in open court.”
“…Then in that case, we can also allow that prosecution can test … of the defendants. Until then, the objection is sustained,” Judge Gbenewelleh ruled.
Defendant Wogbeh had testified that following the high court's mandate, he instructed co-defendant Kamara to authorize SGS for the shipment of the logs.
However, Judge Gbenewelleh said the burden of proof was on the prosecution when it alleged that the defendants violated the moratorium of the President's.
But the court said “the burden of proof now shifted on the defendants that they did not violate the moratorium because the mandate of Chambers Justice Ja'neh instructed or ordered the Moses Wogbeh Administration to ship the logs.”
“The defendant still on the stand and has the burden to establish that they acted upon the mandate of the Chamber Justice by producing the mandate before this court during trial or at the time the defendants are giving evidence,” the court ruled.
The court said by law, it will also take judicial notice of the mandate of Chamber Justice … for determination consistent with chapter 25, Section 25.1 of the Civil Procedure Law here. At the time of the prosecution's question, it said it did not have copy of the Supreme Court's September 4, 2012 Mandate in question on hand, but it had access to it through research.
Prosecution contended that it was the responsibility of the defense counsels to bring copy of the mandate because their witness had testified about it, even though the State had equally gone about its own research to access it.
State lawyer Cllr. Abraham Sillah said his question was meant to test the credibility of the witness, because the mandate was issued on September 4, 2012; while the email to SGS by FDA ordering for shipment was issued before the Supreme Court's mandate on August 14, 2012.
Defense argued that the question was entrapping the witness, questioning “why” the witness must reconcile document that he had not seen, and even the lawyer doesn't have in court. By Winston W. Parley - Edited by Jonathan Browne